The Value of Employer Branding

Lawrence Zammit's article on The Times of Malta.

I remember a politician once making a comment that there used to be a time when people would be chasing jobs and now (at the time of him making the comment) the jobs are chasing people. Although this comment was made a number of years ago, employers and employees know that it is still very valid in 2017.

We need to keep in mind that although we have had blips in our economy, we have not had severe unemployment for the last thirty years. This has changed the outlook of people in employment and job seekers in particular.

Go back sixty, seventy years. Generally people were seeking employment to earn a living that was ideally more comfortable from that of their parents. Fifty years ago that changed as job opportunities had increased in the second half of the 1960’s and employees were not just seeking a job to earn a living but were seeking to be motivated in their job. This gave them some opportunity to be choosy. With the economy showing good growth since the second half of the 1980’s, expectations changed once more as employees started to seek development opportunities in their job.

Employees are looking for jobs that give them the opportunity to grow and that give them a means to the lifestyle they want to live. They are seeking employment with organisations that have a good reputation and help them to feel self fulfilled. Employees are not just asking themselves about what they wish to do but also where they wish to work.

The battle for talent among employers is so evident nowadays, as skills shortages are becoming even more acute in certain sectors. This has forced employers to rethink the way they position themselves in the labour market.

Traditionally companies relied on their consumer brand to provide them with a good reputation. A strong consumer brand would then be used to attract and retain talented employees. This is no longer enough as there is also a need for employers to have a strong employment brand.

Employers are starting to recognise the fact that their vision, values and culture have a huge impact on their image and, therefore their reputation. In turn this fuels satisfaction, happiness and success on the job. They need to be seen as a great place to work. The brand renders them unique when compared to other employers.

There are companies with strong consumer brands but who few people want to work with, because of their work practices, their values and their behaviours. Recently there was the example of Amazon, which certainly enjoys a strong consumer brand; but about whom there were a number of reports of ill treatment of employees at their warehouse in Scotland. These reports included threats of sacking employees for sick leave or slow packing of products.

However developing an employer brand is not just about pushing public relations messages to the market and refreshing them every so often. It is about the real life experiences of the employees, the way the leadership team behaves, the corporate values that are projected.

If there is any divergence among these three elements, it is bound to emerge in the public domain and the employer would have no control on it. The employer cannot exercise any control on what is said about it in chat rooms, blogs and online communities. So the employer brand depends a great deal on the authenticity of the employer.

My own experience in the recruitment sector shows that employers with strong positive authentic brands (and not all brands are alike, as the uniqueness of the employer is to be determined by the employer) attract talent to a greater extent than other employers, experience lower staff turnover and reduce their recruitment costs. In today’s labour market these are three outcomes that cannot be ignored.

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